Posted: 22 August, 2013
by Bill Harrigan
Harrigan: State Of Refereeing
Exclusive: Bill Harrigan's brutally honest view of NRL refereeing in 2013
I’ve been asked on a weekly basis this year by media people and fans, "How do you think the referees are going, Bill?"
I answer honestly; it’s the only way I know how.
As a group they are not refereeing to their potential. They seem to lack confidence in their decision making. I’ve always said confidence breeds confidence. I’m not seeing any of this amongst the refs this year.
It’s a difficult position for me to be critical on the state of the referee’s because some may say “well you were the boss last year and they weren’t much better.” I had one bloke say to me, “you’re only critical on them because you’re dirty you got the punt from them last year.”
Well he got one part of that right. I was filthy with the NRL last year for sacking Stu Raper and myself on the back of plenty of heat from sections of the media and a few spineless referees within our ranks. But I got over that pretty quickly when I realized I’d been given my life back. I even thanked the bloke who made the decision to sack us when I saw him in Melbourne in round 3. I have a smile on my face again. My family has their dad back and I’m enjoying life.
But what about the referees?
Well I know for a fact they are not enjoying this season.
There are personal dramas amongst a couple of the referees. The type of no talk and if left in a room alone it’s on. The boss, Daniel Anderson is apparently looking at coaching opportunities and wants out. He signed a three year deal. There’s a massive old boys mentality within the ranks which has divided the group. Put this all together and you have one unhappy camp. So how do we expect the referees to perform to their potential when things aren’t good off the field?
I told the NRL when they sacked me. I even pleaded with them to not give the head job to a football coach. It needs to be a person with a refereeing background. I believe my predecessor Robert Finch did a great job as head coach during the 8 years he was in charge. But he was the first to admit when he started he had no idea of the technicalities of refereeing and would have to rely on his senior referees to help him. Daniel Anderson walked in on his first day and said exactly the same thing. Daniel relies on two blokes, Tony Archer & Russell Smith to coach the refs.
Last year the NRL raised the idea of putting someone else in charge above Stu Raper and I. The idea was to allow Stu and I to get on with the coaching and leave the boss to take the flack and deal with the media. I told them it was too late for that as they would still come after me due to my profile. I have no doubt they introduced this idea with the appointment of Daniel this year leaving Archer and Smith to coach and lead the refs. There lies the problem. So far the media has shifted no blame their way.
Fans are frustrated with the amount of video decisions being sent up and the amount of time wasting that goes with it. Fans applaud a referee these days when he just points to the spot and awards the try. Tony Archer once sent 9 out of 10 tries up to the video ref in one game. I asked why and his response was “I’m not getting a kick in the arse for making a mistake when I have the technology to get it right.”
Back to my point, confidence breeds confidence. I have no doubt he is directing the referees to check everything. You can see their frustration in their body language.
We should be seeing referees with a spring in their step, standing tall, looking and being confidant, decisive and getting the decisions right. We are not seeing this at all. What we are getting is decisions which are amazingly off the page to all and sundry. We are getting penalty counts in the high teens and twenties. Bloody frustrating for the players and the fans.
There were calls last year for footballers to be put into the video box. They said this was the way to go if we want to get it right. I said it would not make any difference. Daniel obviously supported this theory because this year he has ex-footballers in the box. Did it help? No. In my opinion it’s worse.
Krisnan Inu Tackle On James McManus
20 May, 2013 - 12:30PM
See more: Krisnan Inu, James McManus, Willie Mason
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Fox Sports coverage shows Bulldogs Krisnan Inu's tackle on James McManus.
Everyone was flabbergasted when Krisnan Inu was not sent off for his spear tackle.
There were two ex-footballers in the box that night. Three weeks ago we saw an amazing decision to allow a try at Penrith to Dean Whare when we could all clearly see he touched the sideline and his hand was out when the ball was grounded. Two ex-footballers were in the box that day including Luke Phillips as the head video ref.
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Video of Cooper Cronk's tackle that went unpunished despite Triple M's Bill Harrigan calling for 10 in the bin.
Just last weekend in Round 23 we saw Cooper Cronk stay on the field after a professional foul which had everyone agreeing it was a sin bin offence. It was sent up to the video ref and again no action and guess what? Two ex-footballers in the box.
Luke O'Donnell Tip Tackle
20 August, 2013 - 2:54PM
See more: Luke O'Donnell, Sydney Roosters
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Sydney Roosters Luke O'Donnell could face severe punishment for his tip tackle on Tigers' Tim Simona.
Monday night football Roosters v Tigers and Luke O’Donnell up ends a Tigers player which was as bad as Tony Williams tackle last year which earnt him 7 weeks. Again two ex-footballers in the box.
The Steve Matai no try was the correct decision to make under the current policy which means the video ref must have conclusive evidence to overturn the on-field decision before checking the replay. But again to all of us it was wrong. Had the on-field referee ruled TRY then checked it the video ref could have rightly ruled TRY.
There have been a couple of other howlers but you get my message. It didn’t work.
My biggest disappointment this year is the treatment of Brett Suttor. He was dropped after round 5 along with Gerard Sutton. Gerry was back two weeks later and still Brett is running around in the Holden Cup or on the line. Years ago he had a rough start in first grade but worked hard to change his persona and earn respect from the players. He did this and refereed the City v Country match two years ago. Now he is GONE.
The strong whisper I have heard is he will be released at the end of the year. Not because of his refereeing ability but someone doesn’t like him. It’s a waste of talent when the ranks are in desperate need of good referee’s.
Back to Smith and Archer. Russell challenged me on many occasions on the direction I had taken last year. I welcomed his challenges, it kept me on my toes and always thinking but I used to say to Stu, "god help us if he ever takes over." They have let the fundamentals go by the wayside this year. Players are again offside at kick-offs, line drops, kicking in front of the line, scrums not packed properly and roll balls in the ruck.
You say minor issues but if let go they eventually impact on the game in some way, e.g. not playing the ball with your foot speeds up the play-the-ball giving that side an unfair advantage. I’m not in the inner circle of the refs anymore so I make my assumptions based on my observations and experience with these two blokes. They both have to take responsibility for what’s happening this year not so much Daniel.
I’ll finish by saying this. The referees will always work hard and go out on the field to do the best they can. The majority of them are good blokes with plenty of ability. It’s just a pity we are not seeing them allowed to shine. I long for the day they become confidant, decisive and smiling referees again.
Triple M NRL call team